One thing that I've learned over the years of
flying skydivers is that there is not enough proper training of the new
Jump Pilots that get hired. There is no kind of Jump Pilot Rating or even
a "sign off" requirement. Sometimes I think that there should be.
If you are a newly hired Jump Pilot, get
familiar with the FARs that
govern skydiving. Ask your DZO if they have a Training Syllabus, if they
do not, you can find one on my Resources page.
While on that page, be sure and watch the video "Flying for Skydiving
Operations". Also, if you are currently a Jump Pilot, remember to not get
complacent and to review often! Finally, if you have ANY questions at all
feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I love helping my fellow pilots.
Below you will find the "Jump Pilot Training"
portion of the FAA publication "Flying for Skydiving Operations". It has a
lot of important information contained in it.
Jump Pilot Training
Training from experienced jump pilots and Drop Zone (DZ) operators is the
best way to learn how to fly skydivers. First, gain a thorough knowledge
of the airplane and its systems, especially the fuel system. Then practice
typical jump plane maneuvers: gross-weight takeoffs, best-rate climbs,
slow flight, door operation, and maintaining airspeed and heading on jump
run and with skydivers on the step. Simulate engine-out scenarios at every
opportunity, including after takeoff, so that pitching forward to maintain
airspeed is a natural reaction. Mentally note the fields and available
areas around the airport that can be used for an emergency landing.
Finally, always begin each takeoff roll with the expectation that the
engine will fail on that flight. Be prepared!
Have a current weather briefing, including
File a NOTAM with the nearest Flight Service
Determine jump run direction and altitude (be
sure to convert AGL to MSL).
Determine who is the jumpmaster or loadmaster
for the flight.
Jump planes are flown hard and endure more
takeoffs and landings than most other aircraft. A thorough preflight
inspection is essential to each day.
Look for cracked and loosened components
around the spinner, engine cowling, inflight doors, and landing gear.
Check propeller for nicks and scratches.
Check tires and brakes.
Check the oil quantity.
Check fuel tanks often with a calibrated fuel
stick; do not rely on fuel gauges. Use only approved aviation fuels.
Research has shown that the vast majority of jump plane accidents were the
result of fuel exhaustion, fuel starvation, or fuel contamination.
Conduct an engine runup and aircraft systems
Loading the Aircraft
An aircraft both overweight and
out-of-balance is on the verge of being uncontrollable.
Determine the aircraft's weight and center of
gravity (CG). The maximum takeoff weight is found in the aircraft manual.
The center of gravity can be calculated from charts also found in the
Ensure that the aircraft stays within its
weight and balance limitations. This includes the weight of each occupant
and his or her associated gear - parachute, jumpsuit, helmet, etc.
Occupants must be secured with a seat belt or
other approved restraint prior to taxi. All equipment should be secured or
If multiple jump planes are operating,
constant vigilance for landing parachutes is necessary when taxiing and
In Cessnas, the fuel selector is in a location
where it can be inadvertently switched off. Check it prior to and during
each takeoff for proper position.
Have a pre-planned action for every possible
event, including engine failure (e.g., have alternative emergency landing
areas in mind).
Climb angles often impede the front view from
the flight deck. Use shallow turns (usually to the left), which also serve
as clearing turns.
Avoid busy victor airways or established
arrival or departure routes.
Monitor power settings and engine temperatures
to maximize the climb performance while minimizing engine overheating.
At any point during the flight, the aircraft
should be in a position to safely glide back to the airport if the engine
The Jump Run
Every jump plane has a target speed for the
jump run. For Cessna, it is generally between 80 and 90 mph. Find the
power setting that maintains the jump run altitude and target airspeed.
Determine the desired spot for dropping
jumpers. The spot is the skydivers' predetermined exit point over the
ground, and it is nearly always upwind of the intended landing area.
The jump pilot must assess whether releasing
the jumpers will compromise safety. If so, the jumpers must be held until
all conditions are clear for the jump.
Winds at altitude can have a large influence
on the spot, even though the skydivers are free-falling through it. (A 30
mph wind at 12,500 AGL can move a group of free-falling jumpers a
half-mile from their exit point.)
A jumpmaster will fine-tune the aircraft's
alignment over the spot.
It is vital that the pilot maintain a healthy
margin above stall speed to prevent a stall on the jump run.
With student skydivers, the jumpmaster will
often call for reduced power to assist jumper climb-out. Use pitch to
On jumper climb-out, the pilot may need
additional control inputs to counter the effect of skydivers on the step.
Many jump planes with a rear door can have their aft CG exceeded if many
jumpers mass in or near the door on a jump run.
When jumpers have exited, notice ATC of
"jumpers away" and advise the controller of your next maneuver.
A Cessna's inflight door can be closed with a
yaw maneuver that will need to be practiced. Make sure that the door is
Set up a descent consistent with safety, and
guarding against shock cooling. Each operator will have a preferred
airspeed for descent. For Cessnas, descent speeds are in the 140 mph
range. This speed should result in a 1,000-1,200 fpm descent rate.
Use carburetor heat during descent; Cessnas
are susceptible to carburetor ice.
At any point, the aircraft should be in a
position to glide to the airport if necessary.
Remember that descending turns serve well as
clearing turns, and make sure that all of your exterior lights are on.
Keep a tight traffic pattern. The aircraft
should be able to glide to the airport in the event of a power loss.
Ensure that the aircraft remains clear of the
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